Giants’ day: Mad Bum with a rope, Smyly with a fastball
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Give Mad Bum enough rope, and he’ll have us tied in knots, if not exactly like the cattle he pursued.
Just what we needed when the buzz from the sign-stealing scandal ebbed, another Madison Bumgarner epic, if for a man known for locking up a World Series game a slightly unexpected one.
Or is it? “Nothing Mad Bum does would surprise me,” said Brandon Crawford.
Including, perhaps, this winter's signing with the Diamondbacks after a decade with the Giants.
And despite the rumors, not because the D-Backs would let him bring his horse.
Unfortunately he didn’t make the six-mile trip Monday from Salt River Fields, the D-Backs' park, when his former team beat his new team by an all-too-typical Cactus League score of 11-9.
The Giants are now 2-1 in the exhibition season. “I’d like to step back and see what we have,” said Gabe Kapler, the first-year — uhm, first-month — manager, “but I don’t know if you can objectively say what it means.” Nor can we say, objectively or subjectively, what Bumgarner’s offseason activity, playing rodeo cowboy — round ‘em up, Mad Bum — really means. He’s survived, unlike falling off a bike, which kept from playing baseball for a couple of months.
Bumgarner did his roping virtually in plain sight on a ranch 66 miles from Phoenix. Under an assumed name, “Alias Smith & Jones.” No, sorry. That was a TV series in the early 1970s.
Bumgarner’s alias was Mason Saunders, using his wife’s maiden name.
It was all out there on the Facebook page of Rancho Rio, in Wickenburg, photos of Bumgarner snaring cattle, but roping with his right hand, which if didn’t catch the animals off balance — Mad Bum throws left, but he does bat right — certainly did the journalists.
Not until The Athletic, the venture-capitalized, multi-million-dollar publication, came up with the news, did Bumgarner’s own venture become an item.
“The delightful revelation was reported ... in the rare instance of investigative reporting unearthing evidence that the world is secretly better than we knew,” wrote Laurel Wamsley of NPR in Washington.
Whether the Giants without Bumgarner are better than we think is a question that will be answered. What Drew Smyly, who started and went an inning and two thirds, apparently answered was the question about the left arm on which Tommy John surgery was performed early in the 2017 season.
Smyly was with Tampa Bay then. Three years and three teams later, Smyly, 30, is on the Giants, signed as a free agent, surely on the recommendation of Kapler, for whom Smyly pitched last season in Philadelphia.
It was only one game, but Kapler and Smyly seemed as much ecstatic as relieved.
The farther Smyly gets from the operation, concludes Kapler, the better he’ll be. Who knows, but the only thing it will cost the Giants is Smyly’s salary.
“I wanted to be in the National League,” said Smyly, “and the Giants play in a pitcher’s park.”
Smyly didn’t allow a run. He struck out two and walked one. His fast ball hit 94 mph, all good signs.
“Drew Smyly had a really strong start for us,” Kapler said. “Right from the get-go, we recognized that he had a good fastball. It had a lot of life and finish to it. He was slamming his curveballs for strikes and throwing his cutter below the zone, doing all the things that he's been working on in his bullpen sessions.”
Kapler didn’t seem concerned about Bumgarner’s riding and roping. “Are you?” he asked a writer.
What a writer asked Smyly was what he thought about the Bumgarner tale. “I’ve never met him personally,” Smyly said, “but the guy’s a legend. I can listen to Mad Bum stories all day.”